Arden Challenge April 19-20, 2013

81 miles   5,100 ft elevation gain   3000 kilojoules
   A fairly hilly day in the Ardenne region of Belgium where all of us (7 USA riders) made a 30 man split halfway through the race which seemed destined to stay away. This was not the case as too many riders wanted a free ride at the back. With the field catching us around an hour and a half to go,it became slightly more hectic, which helped myself get caught out when a group was let off the leash. Three of our riders made that split (Ty,Greg, and Eamon) so our job turned into following wheels for the remaining 40-30 kilometers or so. In the final local lap I decided to hit out instead of jostling around in a group sprint. Some riders came with me on a small crosswind riser about 5k from the line where we drilled it, catching some of the breakaway right before the final kicker(approximately 2k from the line). I was able to crest it in second (13 breakaway riders already had an insurmountable lead) where I caught up to the rider just ahead, then went full bore to the finish. It was disappointing to miss the break when my legs felt good, but Ty getting 3rd made it a solid outing. On to the next one!
Photo credit- http://foto.jasperstuyven.be/#home
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Day 2- 9th:           http://app.strava.com/activities/49755725
79.5 miles   6,000 ft elevation gain   3,300 kilojoules
   2x 43k loop to 4x10k loops. Greg Daniel, Tyler Williams, and I got into an early early break (first 5 kilometer type) which usually don’t work since it’s so soon, and riders feel they have to save their legs for the final. Most of the racers weren’t afraid to pull which led us to have a good paceline not far from finishing both the long loops. Our lead stretched out to 3 minutes from the slumbering peloton, leaving us with a taste possible victory. When we entered the 10 kilometer finishing circuits the horsing around started (side note: Still going hard up the KOM climb). This dwindled our group down to five from the original ten, with one of them (Japanese national) slightly dangling off the back of the climb. Once the downhill started (coming into one lap to go) Tyler was given a gap on the tight bends, which he exploited to the fullest. Just a couple turns later I jumped to attempt a bridge-up, making the British rider chase while Greg could sit on his wheel. The Brit caught up to me, where Greg counter-attacked, putting daylight into us remaining three riders. Everyone was chasing at this point. On the last time up the headwind climb (these usually feel like you’re riding through peanut butter) I attempted to save some energy for the second kicker, not going full gas on the first ramp up. This led to a rider bridging up along with the Japanese man from the break (Simon Yates, another Brit, flew by us attempting to catch Greg and Tyler). Greg dispatched Tyler during the middle/second portion of the climb with Yates catching him(Tyler) at the top. Our group now had four riders. The Belgian who had bridged along with the Japanese and Great Britian rider from the break. We weren’t working cohesively together so I decided to attack, trying to keep clear of the fast charging chase group. It didn’t work out, getting caught with only a kilometer to go. I rounded the final corner in 4th wheel, kicked, but didn’t have much legs for the steep final 200 meters. 5th in the small group sprint, which got me 9th on the day. All in all it was a great race, with Greg getting the win making it four American riders in the top 10!
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